Annika’s Witty Gems

Posted April 16th, 2014 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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awg4Annika was 27 months when we visited India in February.  She was looking forward to meeting “Ammamma”(my mother) and Daada-Daadi (Seejo’s dad & mom) again – who she knew are in India. Here are some gems from Annika during the course of our visit

Is India Done?

We stayed the first night of our visit with Seejo’s parents. The next morning, we set off to visit my mom along with a suitcase full of gifts for my relatives. Looking at both of us and our huge suitcase, Annika asks us “Is India Done?”. Continue Reading »

Life in Botswana

Posted August 27th, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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BotswanaI confess, I was singularly ignorant about the history of Botswana before my trip. But I soon learnt that Botswana had been a British protectorate (not a colony) from 1885 till its independence. Worried about a Boer (Dutch) invasion and getting incorporated into neighbouring South Africa, the leaders at that time, asked the British to protect their country.   Eighty odd years later, in 1966, under the leadership of the Botswana’s first Prime Minister, Seretse Khama, Botswana gained its independence from Britain.  At the time of independence, Botswana was a poor undeveloped country with no natural resources and only about 10kms of tarred roads in the entire country.  Given that they did not have any gold or diamonds, Britain granted them independence with minimal fuss in comparison with other countries that had to struggle for their freedom from Britain.  However, in one of those bizarre twists of fate for which I am sure, the Batswana are devoutly grateful; diamonds were discovered in Botswana just one year after independence.  The Botswana government made a joint deal with DeBeers for diamond mining rights making it one the world’s foremost suppliers of conflict free diamonds.  And they actually used their burgeoning fortune from the diamonds to develop the country financially and socially making it one of the economically strong countries in Africa. Continue Reading »

Sreesanth

Posted October 1st, 2007 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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Nowadays Sreesanth seems to top the list of “ Cricketers we love to hate ”. Infact I have recently read several articles online that call him rude, ill-behaved, arrogant or selfish. Now, I do not know the man personally but I felt compelled to share this story about him that portrays him in a completely different light.

Recently a Malayalam newspaper published a serialized biography of Sreesanth in about 7 or 8 parts. One part was exclusively devoted to Sreesanth’s early cricketing career and the path that he took to become part of the Indian national cricket team. In that he credits a Jayakrishnan for making him stick to the game when he was a teenager. JK was several years his senior, and knew him primarily as an enthusiastic youngster interested in cricket. He also was a friend of Sreesanth’s elder brother. For one entire chapter, Sreesanth specifies how JK intervened with the selectors of the Under 13 team in Kerala when he was suspended from the team, for a teenager’s outburst, despite getting plenty of wickets. He says JK encouraged him to go to Bangalore for a camp conducted by Brijesh Patel which proved to be the turning point in his career. He expresses in detail, his gratitude to JK and the affection with which he holds him. He also describes his emotional relationship with JK’s mother who is referred to as his second mother throughout the article.

JK is my cousin brother. He died in a car accident about 8 years ago, he was 29. My family has not come to terms with his untimely death—even now. He was a competent cricketer himself although he played only at the university level. His fame and exploits, cricketing or otherwise were legendary—but only within our immediate family.

There are very few people who give credit to the people who helped them on their way up—especially if they are not “somebodies”. But giving credit to a person who passed away 8 years ago, without any hope of getting credit or any thing in return is truly heartwarming. I very much appreciate Sreesanth’s gesture in doing that. He reassured my aunt, made her feel valued, made sure that her son is still being remembered and alone makes me respect the guy. Despite his busy schedule and “stardom”, he still makes time to visit my aunt or talk to her.

My family will always be very proud of Sreesanth, not for his cricketing skills but for his humanity and in acknowledging my brother’s contribution to his success. Sreesanth’s words keep his memory alive and make sure that my brother did make a difference not only to our lives but also to several others.

Introducing Mamasa

Posted March 19th, 2007 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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There is an amazing sense of satisfaction when you can cross an item that has been on your To-Do list for over a year. This weekend, I finally uploaded the mamasa.org website: a chronicle of my paternal family. The most daunting aspect of this proves was the task of entering the complete “ Mamasa Family Tree ” into a family tree program to make a soft-copy version of my paternal family tree. The most painstaking effort of this process was to translate and enter the entire family tree (1211 members over seven generations) into an online database. This process along took me about 6 months, which really made me appreciate the efforts of those who actually collected and created this family tree in the first place in the pre-email era.

For those who are not part of my family: Mamasa is an acronym for Ma dangarli Ma ha Sa bha: the once in 4 year gathering of all the extended members of the Madangarli family. This website was in the works for a long time. My first draft of it was in 1999, infact the first website I created while learning the rudiments of HTML. From initial conception to being a functional website, it was a long and laborious process. However, during this entire process, I learnt a lot of things:

Writing about the history of the family tree was an interesting revelation of how prevalent cultures of the times shape our existing family circle. We started the family tree with my great-great grandfather. During that time, among Namboodiri’s ( the community that my father’s family belongs to) only the eldest son (and all the daughters) would marry into a Namboodiri family. The younger sons would form alliances with non-Namboodiri families, thus creating a layer of separation between the rest of the family and his new family. Therefore when I began to review my relationships with my cousins, it was interesting to note that amongst the 1000 odd members, the people I knew and interacted with were the descendants of the eldest sons in each generation. The younger sons’ progeny were obviously non-namboodiris and therefore the “uthna-baithna” with them was decreased.

It was a fun-way to study how names were in fashion. The earliest generation had a generous sprinkling of “Nangelis” and”Nangayyas” (popular female names), for the next generation were the Savithri’s and Sreedevi’s were in style following on to the Geetha’s and Bhadra’s ending with Ramya’s and Kavya’s of today’s generation. Similarly Parameshwaran and Vasudevan are the most common male names sprinkled generously over the 7 generations. It seems that our family has a propensity for names starting with “Shri”: Shrinath, Shriraag, Shrijit, Shrikant, Shriraj etc. It was an extremely interesting analysis to figure out how different generations have affinities to different names.

The confounding factor was the sheer number of families that are intertwined in this family web. Most family tree software programs are customized to the European/American family trees and are difficult to adapt to the strange family circumstances that are part of the Indian or more specifically the Kerala family structure. Here, matriarchal and patriarchal family structures intermingle such that it is a monumental task to figure out family names and hierarchy. Depending on the fact whether one person married into a matriarchal or patriarchal family, their family names would be different.

It is going to be another enormous effort to keep updating this family tree, adding new branches as families become larger and settle around the globe. Hopefully publishing this family tree online helps in continually watering it and watching it grow.

Those interested visit: :www.mamasa.org

Cousins and then some more

Posted May 12th, 2003 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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Apparently there is a Mallu “tough question” joke that goes something like
Question: Name a place that has no Malayalees at all
Answer: Heaven!!!
Change that to a place that has no cousins and you will find me nodding my assent fervently.

I have several cousins in US. One in almost every state….Add to the fact that most of them keep changing their residence make it seem like I have in EVERY state. When I was planning to do my MS I tried hard to get into a University that had no cousin around a 200 mile radius. For that I was ready to brave even the arctic climes of Minnesota. However destiny willed it otherwise and I found myself at University of Virginia with my first cousin (father’s sisters daughter) in Herndon,Va. A few visits to her place unearthed some more distant cousins and relatives all in the neighboring vicinity.

To get away from invitations to visit her place and meet relatives on the few rare weekends that I used to get off , I started making trips to far and away states. But of course I could not avoid meeting my relatives there as well…my companions on these trips were willy nilly dragged by me to meet these cousins of mine. To be fair I must confess, there were several advantages as well….it saves putting up at hotels, gives you more options at home-cooked food, and at time I can even wrangle a free sight seeing trip from some of them ;-) !.

Don’t get me wrong, I like most of my cousins …and at times even enjoy spending time with them. But one of the advantages of coming to US in my mind was something, which I nebulously called “freedom” and the prospect of cousins who periodically checked up on my “well being” was not I had bargained for. If you think, “well can’t you avoid them??”, then I can only say that you probably don’t have as many cousins as you do. For despite the seven seas that separate us , my strings are firmly in the hands of my mother who insists that I observe all the “civilities” that I should lest the parents of these cousins (who themselves are in another continent) feel hurt!!

Now I have moved to Philadelphia, which very very surprisingly does not have any of my cousins. But alas my “freedom” lasted for just 5 months when yet another cousin of mine, landed up here with poora khandaan( wife, parents and six month daughter).

But i wonder why…..somehow I am really looking forward to going to their place after work today!!

DISCLAIMER: all my cousins reading this….I am just kidding…Of-course you know that ;-) !!

Books

A woman’s life by Guy de Maupasant : Some books are easy to read and a woman’s life is just that. It is the story of frustration and the sad life of a Norman woman set in19 century. The book has no sudden twists or extra characters added to the plot but still the slow exploration of the main protagonist’s feelings holds your attention.
What Looks Like Crazy (on an ordinary day) : Whenever I go to Barnes and Nobles, I browse almost all the aisles till the unfortunate person who has accompanied me realizes that the only way to get me out of the store is to drag me. Most of the times, my wallet cannot afford the long list of books I intend to buy and its rare that I pick up books at random especially at full price. However I gave in to an impulse and picked up What Looks Like Crazy (on an ordinary day) by Pearl Cleage just because the blurb seemed interesting and I liked the colorful cover!!
Was a good decision. A story about a HIV infected hairdresser coming back to her hometown might sound maudlin and sentimental but the book was full of humor and optimism. Read it if you can lay your hands on it.

Movies

Mr and Mrs Iyer : The movie definitely has its moments. Konkana Sensharma’s potrayal of a Tam Brahm is pretty authentic.
Identity : Half “Ten Little Niggers” and half “Sybil”. Disappointing
Bandini : Nutan is my all time favourite actress. Her potrayal of Bandini is restrained yet the simmering emotions beneath the calm facade is almost palpable. And as a bonus Dharmendra who looks simply wow!!

Websites

Check out this photo-blog for some amazing pictures especially some great ones of Philly. Now you know I live in a great city!!
Some more pictures, this time its my favourite city ,Bombay.
Urdu poetry anybody?? , some mazakiya shayri maybe? Enjoy!!!